May 4, 2003
It wasn’t the scenario any BIG EAST team envisioned when entering the weekend. Usually able to close out the schedule with the regular-season title in hand, the University of Notre Dame softball team (33-15, 14-3) needed some help from its conference members to win the league’s regular-season title on Sunday. Rutgers’ (26-23, 8-12) starting pitcher Andria Koehler baffled the Irish batters in game one, scattering five hits to provide her team with a 2-0 upset victory. Notre Dame got one run in the first inning of game two and made that lead stick, earning a split on the day.
Boston College had the opportunity to claim the conference regular-season crown with the Notre Dame loss in game one, but stumbled in its own game one at Seton Hall. Villanova, which split with the Irish on Saturday, also had the opportunity to win the regular-season title and the number one seed in the conference tournament, but lost at Syracuse in game two.
When the dust settled from the weekend storm, Notre Dame finishes BIG EAST competition with a 14-3 record. Boston College matches them point-wise with a 14-5 mark, but loses the first tiebreaker (head-to-head competition). Notre Dame defeated the Eagles 11-0 in five innings on Saturday, April 26.(note: the BIG EAST Conference has not yet made this information official, following the league tie breaker rules, however, Notre Dame should be the number one seed at the BIG EAST Championship).
Villanova (14-7) and Seton Hall (13-7) will join the Irish and Eagles in the BIG EAST Championship on Thursday, May 8, in Salem, Va.
Game one of the Rutgers doubleheader ended up as a pitching duel between Koehler and Notre Dame’s Heather Booth. Booth matched Koehler in strike outs and hits allowed (eight and five, respectively), but the Scarlet Knights scratched across two runs in the fourth inning when Booth uncorked a wild pitch, which got stuck in the Ivy Field back stop. By the time Notre Dame catcher Mallorie Lenn found the ball, Rutgers’ Crystal Vargas had scored from second base. Meaghan Asselta then followed with an RBI double to round out the scoring in game one.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, was unable to mount any serious offense against Koehler. Keeping the Irish hitters off balance with an inside drop and outside curve ball, Koehler was never seriously threatened in the entire game to pick up her 13th victory of the season.
In game two, Notre Dame picked up a run in the first inning when Alexis Madrid reached on an infield hit. She stole second base and scored when Andria Bledsoe drilled a triple to centerfield.
That is all the offensive news from game two. Irish starting pitcher Steffany Stenglein pushed her scoreless inning streak to 10 with four solid innings to begin the game. She left in the fifth after giving up just one hit and walking one batter. Carrie Wisen worked the fifth, sixth and two-thirds of the seventh inning, striking out two without allowing a hit. Senior Jessica Sharron, pitching in her last home game with the Irish, came in for the last out of the seventh inning to pick up her first career save.
Koehler worked the last three innings of game one to keep the Irish off the scoreboard, after Christina Gilliam posted a solid start for the Scarlet Knights. Gilliam ended up with the loss on three hits, two walks and one strike out over three innings.